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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In the Orchid Display House

Lycomormium fiskei ABG 19960924
Maybe it's the color -a true pink, without any of the red violet characteristic of so many 'pink' orchids -that makes Lycomormium fiskei so striking. And the size. Lycomormiums are hefty plants. Our plants, which are relatively small divisions of three or four pseudobulbs, measure three feet in height and must weigh 10 lbs each, basket included. The pendant inflorescence makes an open sided basket pretty much required for producing flowers on a Lycomormium.

Lycomormium fiskei ABG 19960924
Our lycomormiums have big waxy flowers and a strong sweet fragrance like many orchids pollinated by male Euglossine bees. They resemble the closely related Peristeria  -another genus with plicate leaves and smooth pseudobulbs -except for Lycomormium's immobile lip.

Lycomormium, Peristeria and Coeliopsis were for many years placed in the subtribe Stanhopeinae, but differ morphologically in having smooth ovoid pseudobulbs with 3-4 leaves, globose flowers, root hairs, a round viscidium adapted for attachment closer to the bee's head, a column foot, and the absence of a floral abscission layer allowing the flowers to fall off after they wither. Based on these morphological differences and on molecular analysis supporting the idea of two sister taxa, Whitten, Williams and Chase (2000) favor recognizing separate subtribes, Coeliopsidinae and Stanhopeinae.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Paphiopedilum kolopakingii

Paphiopedilum kolopakingii ABG 20120159
Paphiopedilum kolopakingii ABG 20120159
Paphiopedilum kolopakingii ABG 20120159
Our staff has lately been admiring this wonderful pale Paphiopedilum kolopakingii which we received in 2012 from Orchid Inn as Paphiopedilum kolopakingii var. topperi ('Jeanie' x 'Sam's Green Giant'). The typical kolopakingii has a lip that is burnished red amber.

The flowers of kolopakingii vary in size, with larger ones sometimes called variety topperi or gigantea. [But note that the Kew/MoBot Plant List doesn't recognize the varietal name topperi, and Phillip Cribb states in The Genus Paphiopedilum that he regards topperi as simply a large flowered form of kolopakingii.]

Kolopakingii makes a handsome specimen with all its flowers open simultaneously. The pale color of these flowers gives it a sort of ghostly presence in the hour before sunset in the Orchid Display House.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Paphiopedilum glanduliferum

Paphiopedilum glanduliferum 200120164

Paphiopedilum glanduliferum 200120164

Paphiopedilum glanduliferum 200120164

Paphiopedilum glanduliferum 200120164
Of the Asian slipper orchids in our collection, the species belonging to the section Coryopedilum are among the most striking. They don't have the candy and fruit bowl colors of some of the Chinese or Vietnamese slippers, like delenatii or armeniacum.  Instead, these species are regal and impressively big. They are also, at least in our warm climate, the easiest to grow. The eleven Coryopedalum species come from Indonesian and Malaysian islands where they grow at low elevations.
A clutch of them are flowering this month: glanduliferum, kolopakingii and sanderianum.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snow Day

Atlanta had one of its snowless Snow Days on Friday in which schools, workplaces, and virtually the entire city closed down in order to allow everyone to rush to the grocery for bread, milk and batteries ahead of the impending Snowmageddon! (And, skeptics, we did get a little ice Friday night, so it was totally and completely justified.) So after everyone fled the Garden, I took the opportunity to take some leisurely pictures in the Orchid Display House. It was quiet and lovely in the semi-twilight.
See what you missed? Don't worry, most of these guys will still be in flower next week, plus many more. And don't forget, the Fuqua Orchid Center is one of the best places in town to spend a cold January day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bulbophyllum arfakianum

Bulbophyllum arfakianum ABG 20050050
Bulbophyllum arfakianum ABG 20050050
Bulbophyllum arfakianum ABG 20050050
Bulbophyllum arfakianum ABG 20050050
Bulbophyllum arfakianum ABG 20050050
Bulbophyllum arfakianum ABG 20050050
Bulbophyllum arfakianum unfurled its flowers for the first time last week, and I was felled on the instant. There isn't a single vantage point from which the flower doesn't look ravishing. Bulbophyllum arfakianum is native to West Papua, Indonesia. The specific epithet, arfakianum, references the Arfak Mountains, an outstandingly rich region of biological diversity on the Bird's Head Peninsula. Bulbophyllum arfakianum grows as an epiphyte in lowland forest at 50 to 400 meters elevation.

Bulbophyllum arfakianum ABG 20050050
How many other flowers can you think of that look as fantastic from the back as the front?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day 2017

Acineta erythroxantha ABG 20050050
Happy New Year, everyone!! I want to wish you all a joyful new year. May 2017 be filled with discovery and delight in all of the botanical magnificence around us.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Other Slipper

Our magnificent Phragmipedium caudatum would have attracted far more admirers were it not for the raspberry kovachii flowering simultaneously on the waterfall. The lucky visitors who managed to tear themselves away and explore the back of the High Elevation House found this beauty overlooking the Sun Pitchers (Heliamphora) and bromeliads.

The markings on the oversized drooping sepals of Phragmipedium caudatum remind me of fenestrations, the translucent 'windows' characteristic of the pitchers of Nepenthes aristolochiodes, Sarracenia psittacina, and the flowers of Bulbophyllum grandiflorum. Fenestrations are thin parts of the leaf or flower that allow light to be seen by an insect trapped in the interior, but aren't actual exits. In carnivorous plants, the insect flies into the 'windows' in the leaves over and over until it tires and slides into the liquid below. Fenestrations in a flower direct the pollinator toward the anther and stigma, but I don't know if the markings on Phragmipedium caudatum function in this way.

Phragmipedium caudatum grows on rocky seepage slopes at 1,500 to 2,000 meters elevation from southern Mexico to Peru. Our plant is embedded in live sphagnum on a large granite rock in the High Elevation House where it receives a 75º daytime maximum temperature and a 52º nighttime minimum. This week, it has three flowers open simultaneously.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Phragmipedium kovachii

Phragmipedium kovachii, the most notorious orchid discovery within recent memory, is flowering now in the Tropical High Elevation House.

It's growing high on the waterfall, perched on mossy rocks among two other slipper orchids, Phragmipedium besseae and Phragmipedium schlimii. This is the first flowering for our plant, which is a laboratory produced seedling purchased from Piping Rock Orchids in 2009.

In the wild, Phragmipedium kovachii grows in cloud forests at 2,000 meters elevation near Moyobamba, Peru on limestone seepage sites. Since it first caught the attention of growers and scientists outside of Peru, P. kovachii has practically become a poster child for bad behavior within the horticultural/botanical community -the illegal poaching of a protected orchid by a private collector, followed by an astonishing display of poor judgement by the botanists who took possession of it. You can find a detailed account of the story in Craig Pittman's The Scent of Scandal (2012 University of Florida Press). Pittman is a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times who has covered the kovachii story since 2003. It's a fascinating story and it underscores the importance of following the law when self interest, science and the law conflict. I think of the kovachii story as a cautionary tale and I believe Pittman's account should be required reading for anyone who works with orchids at a botanical garden.

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